Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Copper Palate Press

Posted By on October 5, 2010, 11:59 PM

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Over on 2nd South, down a short alleyway tucked behind FICE and Este Pizza you'll find a small independent collective of print artists focused on perfecting their craft. Which you probably would have guessed at first glance from the photo below as they've taken their skills to the sides of the building. But the home for Copper Palate Press isn't just a shop of friends working on their art, its become a hive of activity ever since its inception.

--- The artists within have become frequent guests at artistic gatherings and festivals, creating single-color t-shirt prints for cheap and selling their various experimental works, making them a popular feature and some of their exclusive material a must-have. Take for example, the recent design of an Alaskan half-governor adorned with the phrase "Crazy Retarded", which became a favorite from the last Poor Yorick showing. I got a chance to chat with the main man behind the collective, Cameron Bentley, about his career so far and starting up the studio, plus his thoughts on local art. Along with some pictures of the place and their most recent showing.

Cameron Bentley

Copper Palate Press on Facebook

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDHey Cameron, first thing, tell us a bit about yourself.

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI’ve just finished school, I was a printmaking student in the fine arts program up at the U. I was born and raised in Moab, went to high school in Evanston, but then came to college here in Salt Lake and I’ve been here for the past ten years.

Gavin:
%uFFFD%uFFFDHow did you first take an interest in screen printing and what motivated you to pursue it?

Cameron:
%uFFFD%uFFFDWell when I first started art school I decided I wanted to be a sculpture student. But then I just kinda lost interest in it during the first year. I started looking around some and really liked the print making material I saw, really heavy graphical works and poster images and whatnot. I really got interested in that so that’s when I decided on printmaking.%uFFFD

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDYou got your BFA from the U in Printmaking. What made you choose the U, and how was it for you going through their program?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI actually chose the U when I was pre-architecture, so I didn’t really choose the U for printmaking, I just kept going there after I changed majors. But I enjoyed the art program up there, had a good experience, I would choose it again if I could go back.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDHow did the idea come about for Copper Palate Press, and where did the name come from?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDThe name is actually one that’s been in my head for a couple of years. For a while I thought I might open up a bar and call it Copper Palate as a whiskey reference, which is why it isn’t spelled like “color palette”. So I just liked bringing that name over when I started this, it seemed appropriate. But I had made a lot of good relationships with people all through school, the printmaking department is kind of like family, its always twenty people or less so its everybody’s situation all the time, we’re really close friends. And then my friend Chet Toley was having a baby and had to take down his press to get the chemicals out of his house, so he offered it up to me where I made payment to him over the last year and a half. That press is really what started it, once I had that I called all my buddies to see if they were interested in hopping on, which they were. Then we spent the next year building the space and getting it fixed up, so now we’ve been settled in the last two months to where we can work that much.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDWhat made you decide to make it an artist collective as opposed to a professional business?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI guess its because I really don’t want to run a business, I just want to work on my artwork all day, and I just like it where its independent artists doing their independent thing. We do these printshows and t-shirt printings to raise money for equipment, but other than that everybody’s on their own projects all the time, and its less maintenance for me.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDBeing the collective that it is, how do you decide on who to bring in as part of the studio?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDWell its all just friends of mine that I’ve invited personally for now, so we haven’t done any kind of portfolio reviews or anything, its all been people I’m familiar with already. In the beginning the very first people I talked to about it were people who had some kind of building experience or technical work in printmaking where they’d have the knowledge to build everything. That was the first motivating factor was finding people with carpenter skills and such. But its just friends who were looking for space who could get into what we’re doing.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDWho are some of the other artists currently a part of CPP, and what's it like working with various tastes and skills?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDWell in printmaking you get really used to that environment early because there are always community shops where nobody has their own press or acid room and all this other stuff that’s required for it. Printmaking you’re always sharing space with others, its not like painting where they have their own studio and hang everything on the walls, you get very used to putting your stuff away and having to work around people while being respectful of everybody’s space. So its kind of bred into us to work like that. Some of the other artists we have here are Brian Taylor who is a relief printer, Dave Bogart and Clyde Ashby, all three of those guys I met in the art department when they were all 1-3 years ahead of me. Then we got John Andrews who was a year behind me. We also have a couple photo people, but that hasn’t been as developed as the print side here, but we have Mike Marsnick and Ian Ramsen which I’m really excited about. I think they’ll do a lot of cool stuff down here. We also got Emilee Dziuk, she’s a year or two behind me in print. I think that’s about everyone.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDHow did you come across the space on 2nd%uFFFDSouth and how is it for you having that as your hub?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDAs soon as I got the press I had been looking for a place for a couple of months, and then I just found this on Craigslist one day. I tried to get a few other places that were already rented and weren’t in as good an area, but when I came down here it was all empty except for the utilities sink in the back. There was no toilet, no blackroom, no anything, just an empty shell and a sink. But I liked how its tucked away back here with the parking out front kinda has a little social gathering area. But this space was a lot of work, it was really run down and still kinda is. I had to call in a lot of favors from buddies.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDSuch as?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDLike roofers where we had seven leaks in the ceiling and took it as few visits, which was vital because if it gets too humid in here it messes with all the processes we do. And the floor, it took ages because we could do anything that resembled a print shop, I spent five weeks straight just trying to clean the floor of up to three inches of just dirt and oil that was caked on and just sitting here for thirty years. So I sat here with an ice pick and a shovel and broom, scrubbing with gasoline to get the grub up, and then finally put the dealer on the floor to where it looks much nicer now than it once had. We had to do all the plumbing, all the electrical except for the lights, but everything was on one circuit. Just a mess all over the place. But now we’re just building printmaking equipment, which takes a lot of time and material with more money than we have. It’s a battle. Every thing is a battle. But pretty much everything in here was build by ourselves with the exception of two or three things.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDDoes it feel more like a studio now or do you wish it were more settled?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDIt definitely feels more like a studio. We have some organizational issues we’re working on that I’d like to see go away. But when you’re sharing a space with this many people its hard to remember every little thing that you leave out and it just gets cluttered up in a hurry. But its getting better.%uFFFD

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDEquipment wise, what kind of setup do you have for both the shirts and prints?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDWe’re really just set up for fine art prints on paper, we do the t-shirts in a really low-tech way where we just have clamps and a table, we don’t have a flash dryer or anything t-shirt shops do. So pretty much everything we do are one-color images. But mainly we’re set up for paper works for people to practice their art and establish their career.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDYou've gone out and done a lot of events like the Poor Yorick shows and Craft Lake City. How's the public reaction to the prints you do?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI think its been really strong, actually. KRCL seem to enjoy having us around a lot, we’ve established a really good relationship with them and they’ve talked a lot about how it really makes their event. But we like it, everybody seems to have a good time with it, everybody seems to like watching t-shirts be made. The city response ahs been really positive for us, we’ve been featured in a lot of things and people have responded well to what we do here. Its very rewarding.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDSomething that many people may not know is that you keep the prices for prints and shirts relatively low for people to buy. What made you decide to keep those prices so low, and what's the affect like for you guys of living off of that lowered income?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDWell we’re all just barely out of school. We sell things sometimes but we’re nowhere near paying our bills on our artwork. My thinking behind it all was to do our artwork and have fun, establish ourselves and communicate with people. The communication as the basic goal, it didn’t matter if we put food on the table with it, it just matters that we’re giving people something interesting, you know?

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDThe outreach is more important than the monetary.

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDRight. And everybody seems to be poor right now so we might as well. We’re doing this for as cheap as we can right now, we just raised our printing price to $10 from $5. With the $5 price we’d end up with maybe $20 at the end of the show so that we’d be able to buy supplies with. It really wasn’t cutting it at all, but people still seem to be happy with the $10 price.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDWhat made you decide to start up guest artist nights on Gallery Stroll nights, and how have those gone over each month?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDWell ever since I found this space I decided that since we were only a block away from it all that it might be fun to do shows. I never really thought that I’d run a gallery or organizing art events like this, but we found the space and the timing was perfect. I tried one in June 2009 where I called up a bunch of friends of mine and just asked them if they’d bring some work down, just to kind of show Salt Lake what people are probably going to be involved down the road. We covered all the walls with it and only five people showed up, but we got an Arty for the show with Cara Despain hooking us up. But after the first one it seems kinda fun and gave me a new insight on the art world and what I might wanna do as an artist. So I decided to keep it up for a while and its gotten stronger and stronger, so I’ll probably be doing it for a long time.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDYou’ve been around about a year and a half now, what's your take on being around so far and having the impact you've had in the art community?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDIt seems our impact on the art community has been really positive. All the feedback we’ve gotten from everybody has been great, they’ve been really supportive. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have been received this well so fast. When I think back on the past year and a half it just seems like its really flown by. Our first three shows were slow but after that it really took off, people started talking about us more and more to where now we’ve got this momentum going that hasn’t seemed to stop yet. The city’s been really good to us.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDGoing local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI think we have a great art scene here, we have a lot of really great artists here. I wish there were more places like ours, where you just start up on your own as ambitious people without any money who just want to make something happen. I wish there was a whole network of that kind of stuff going on. That’s about the only thing I would change, but I really like the artists who work here.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDIs there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Cameron:%uFFFD%uFFFDI think more events. Not as much gallery shows but interactive events or gatherings. Which it seems to be going more that way a little bit. There’s been a lot more street festival stuff at Gallery Stroll.

Gavin:%uFFFD%uFFFDHow are your relationships with other print artists in Utah? Does it feel like they're rivals or fellow encouraging artists?


Cameron:
%uFFFD%uFFFDWell like I was saying earlier, its really like a family type of community. The thing I’ve always run into as a printmaker is that nobody really has any idea what I do. They ask me what I do and they have no clue what that means, they don’t know if I work at Kinkos or if I do digital reproductions or what. They don’t seem to realize that its all original work by the artist. So I think print makers already have a bond just because they’re not quite understood. But I’ve never met a print maker who wasn’t super friendly to me, they’re always looking out for each other it seems like.

Gavin:
%uFFFD%uFFFDWhat can we expect from you and the rest of the CPP artists over the rest of the year?

Cameron:
%uFFFD%uFFFDThe biggest thing you can expect from us is our artwork. Up until now we’ve been showing friends of mine who aren’t members of the space because we haven’t had much time to create work due to building the space and whatnot. So now we’ve had a good 6-8 months of working time to where now we’ll have three shows in a row featuring Copper Palate members. My show is on November 19th%uFFFDwhich will be the first of those shows, then Brian Taylor on December 3rd%uFFFDand then January 21st%uFFFDwe have John Andrews. And then we should have more after that along with guests, but you’ll see a lot more artwork from us. Still t-shirts but more focus on our artwork.

Gavin:
%uFFFD%uFFFDAside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Cameron:
%uFFFD%uFFFDWe do have a show October 15th%uFFFDfeaturing Claire Taylor, her stuff is awesome. Along with music by Electric Space Gihad, which I’ve talked to him now about doing it every time because he’s definitely my favorite DJ to have. He’s probably going to be our permanent DJ, I think.


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